IFAF Headed Toward Total Split

It was inevitable. A split.

There has been an air of quiet surrounding the International Federation of American Football ever since the walkout of delegates led by Tommy Wiking at last year’s IFAF Congress in Canton, Ohio.

There was one IFAF at the start of the 2015 World Championships, and two at the end. Since this sundering, the assumption of the global football community was that plenty was surely going on behind the scenes to repair the damage and mend the bridges.

However, nothing could be further from the truth.

It was quiet because there have been no attempts to find a common ground. Pure and simple. Both sides have firmly dug in their heels and hid behind ‘statements’ and lawyers. For a body purportedly committed to unifying American football in a worldwide mission, these events should have been an embarrassment for all parties. However, no one was doing anything seriously to fix the situation. At least not publicly.

Apart from an announcement by Andy Fuller, awarding the U19 Junior World Championships to China, nothing has been happening. Since this statement, Fuller was strongly chastised by Wiking loyalists and suddenly “fired” by that faction to be replaced by Zorica Hofman from Serbia.

Apparently the two sides were moving towards a common ground, and with mediation, had been close to working to find a solution. Which is why this latest move on the part of Wiking is puzzling.

Last week, breaking his silence, the president of the “breakaway” faction of IFAF (although technically, he is still the president of IFAF) issued a letter, calling for an extraordinary session of the IFAF Congress in March. As backup for his request, Wiking attached a letter of “recommendation” from Kit McConnell, Sports Director of the IOC. Efforts to reach McConnell for a comment have been met with silence.IFAF Meeting 3

A few key points surround the letter;

  1. The letter apparently did not go out to all member federations.
  2. The letter was issued on IFAF letterhead.
  3. Wiking signed the letter as ‘President’ of IFAF. (Note: We have previously written about the controversy surrounding Wiking’s April 2015 ‘resignation’ and the split IFAF Congress debacle in Canton at the IFAF World Championships in July.)

According to Article 8 of the IFAF Statutes: Congress; Section D,”If the Executive Board considers it necessary, or if one quarter of the Member Associations submits a request in writing, an Extraordinary Congress shall be convened. Only items included in the agenda shall be discussed at such an Extraordinary Congress.

If this is the case, Wiking’s call for an Extraordinary Congress is a step that may only be taken by the ExBo, Executive Board, or Member Associations, as stated above.

It is not mentioned in Wiking’s statement which ExBo members have called for this meeting, as neither Wiking himself nor the letter’s other signatory, Zorica Hofman, are ExBo members.

British & Finnish Federations Respond

And if it was a war Wiking & Co. were looking for, it seems they have got it.

The British American Football Association wasted no time issuing a statement condemning the act and stating unequivocally that it did not recognize Wiking as president of IFAF:

“The British American Football Association has grave reservations as to the legitimacy of this meeting, and indeed the legitimacy of your appointment and the actions of the “purported Presidium and Board”.

The British American Football Association wishes to make it clear that it believes that Mr. Roope Noronen was duly elected as President of IFAF at the 2015 Congress in Canton, Ohio. And that the only legitimate Presidium and Board is that which acted on, and following the Official General Assembly in Canton. To be clear that is the Board led by Mr. Roope Noronen and not that purported to be lead by Mr. Tommy Wiking.

We are aware that Mr. Wiking contested that he had resigned from his position and that the Executive Board accepted this following his extended leave of absence. However, we believe that his leaving of the Congress room (with a minority of nations to hold a separate meeting) does not constitute a Congress and as such does not provide the basis for a legitimate change to the personnel of the Presidium or validate the continuation of Mr. Wiking’s position as President.

This matter is compounded by the fact that Great Britain has not received any official Minutes of this supposed Congress. The IFAF Statutes state that these must be sent out within 3 months. As such the meeting held by Mr. Wiking is not legitimate or valid.”

Link to entire statement.

On Tuesday, the IFAF President who was elected to replace Wiking at the 2015 IFAF Congress in Canton, Roope Noronen, issued a statement in reply to the one circulated by Wiking the previous week.

In his statement, Noronen acknowledges the IFAF ExBo’s acceptance of the resignation of Wiking in early 2015 and how the subsequent claims stating the otherwise have caused;

“uncertainty over the leadership of the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) has placed a strain on our members and has damaged the perception of our sport in the eyes of many – damage that will take time to repair as we seek to rebuild trust and confidence.”

Link to Roope Noronen’s full statement on the IFAF.org website. 

The Finnish American Football Federation (SAJL) also issued a similar statement:

“In today’s world the best interest for football comes from good governance and following the rules and regulations of IFAF.

While former IFAF president Tommy Wiking continues to make statements on behalf of IFAF, it must be noted that he is doing this by himself only, without any authorization of IFAF, IFAF Congress or IFAF Executive Board. Mr Wiking has not invited the Executive Board members to a meeting to decide to convene this “Extraordinary Congress”.

As a member federation of IFAF, we condemn Mr Wiking’s actions, do not recognize him as IFAF president, and do not see this Extraordinary Congress as a legitimate meeting of IFAF. If there is a wish to hold a legitimate Extraordinary Congress, it should be called by the real IFAF Executive Board following the rightful Canton Congress decisions made last year, as the circulated minutes show.

We hope all IFAF members act responsibly and stop immediately supporting any misrepresentation of IFAF.

The Finnish federation fully supports the statement made by BAFA; (https://www.britishamericanfootball.org/news/bafa-statement-on-ifaf#.Vp3cUHKweM8), and we will not waste our federation’s time nor money traveling to an illegitimate meeting.

The rightful IFAF and its Executive Board will continuously pursue the IOC full recognition, and immediately solve any possible issues or questions that the IOC might have.

Hope to see you all in IFAF Congress next summer, where we are going have interesting issues to be solved and positions of trust to be decided. Until that we should all concentrate – instead of politics and possible personal benefits – to the essential, football!

Best regards,

Suomen Amerikkalaisen Jalkapallon Liitto ry

Esa Haavisto
Senior Vice President”

It has long been a goal of Wiking’s to help IFAF gain recognition by the International Olympic Committee as an Olympic sport.

However, after the debacle of the collapse of the 2015 World Championships in Stockholm and the turmoil caused by this gaping division between two “warring” factions, it seems difficult to understand how the IOC could consider IFAF as a legitimate governing body of an international sport.

As the rest of the international American football community looks on, a war is about to erupt. This will involve lawyers and money. Plenty of it.

Can IFAF survive or will it shrink into two small bodies?

If so, how can this help the game?

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